Merrill Buys into Call for More CFP[® Professionals]

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Merrill Buys into Call for More CFP[® Professionals]

Feb 08, 2013

Merrill Lynch has heeded a call by Kevin Keller, CEO of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, to “institutionalize CFP® certification into the [advisor] culture,” Dow Jones reports.

The wirehouse is footing the bill for advisors wishing to add the designation to their resumes while also making the course mandatory for trainees. But while the coursework is mandatory, writing the final exam isn’t required of Merrill trainee advisors.

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards is trying to grow the number of designated CFP[® professionals] from about 67,000 today to between 80,000 and 100,000 over the next five years. The group began promoting its program at larger firms two years ago. It plans to branch out to individual advisors this spring. Completion of the course and achieving the designation can cost several thousand dollars.

Merrill added the CFP[® certification] coursework to its trainee program about 18 months ago. Merrill advisors who receive the CFP® designation are eligible for a financial reward, Dow Jones notes.

The brokerage supports the inclusion of a financial planner on every advisor team, says Dwight Mathis, Merrill’s head of business development and new advisor strategy.

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management covers the cost of CFP[® certification] tuition for its advisors and trainees. The brokerage encourages advisors to pursue the CFP[® certification] and other designations once they’ve been producing fees and commissions for two years. The delay allows advisors “to give [the course] the right attention,” a Morgan Stanley spokeswoman tells Dow Jones.

Wells Fargo Advisors has yet to decide if it will make CFP[® certification] “a regular part of our training program,” says a brokerage spokeswoman. UBS Wealth Management Americas, the fourth of the industry’s wirehouses, didn’t respond to Dow Jones’s request for comment.

In the wider brokerage world, Ameriprise Financial claims the highest number of CFP[® professionals]. Its advisors aren’t required to complete the course or sit the CFP® examination but the designation is viewed as an important component in the firm’s “financial planning-based culture,” Dow Jones reports.

Ameriprise, which picks up the tab, notes “it’s an expensive investment in our advisors but… the client satisfaction is unequivocally different,” says Mike Greene, Ameriprise senior v.p. of advisor business development and financial planning.

Greene, who sits on the CFP Board, refers to an Aite Group study that found 87% of clients who work with a financial advisor who is a CFP[® professional] say they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied.” Seventy-two percent of clients working with a non-CFP advisor say the same.

Advisors working through Ameriprise’s independent network must pay for the CFP[® certification] themselves, but the company provides some incentives such as special marketing programs and conferences, Dow Jones reports.

February 8, 2013


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Did You Know?

Among clients who work with an advisor, 87% of those working with a CFP® professional are satisfied or very satisfied, compared with 72% of those who work with an advisor without certification.
Anyone can call themselves a “financial planner.” Only professionals who meet CFP Board’s rigorous standards can call themselves CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals.
The 2013 Household Financial Planning Survey shows that those with a financial plan feel more confident and report more success managing money, savings and investments than those without a plan.
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